Doklam Standoff Current Affairs - 2019
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The 9th Annual Defence and Security Dialogue between India and China held in Beijing. It held between the two defence delegations headed by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra and China’s deputy chief of Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission. Mitra was accompanied by senior officials of Ministry of Defence and Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
The defence dialogue was also held ahead of 21st round of border talks between the special representatives of the two countries in Chinese city of Dujiangyan on November 23-24, 2018. National security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi are designated special representatives for the border talks.
The 9th Annual Defence and Security Dialogue was held after one-year gap due to Doklam standoff. It had not taken place last year following the 73-day tense standoff between two Indian and Chinese militaries at Doklam, The standoff was triggered by Chinese PLA’s plan to build road close strategically narrow ‘Chicken’s Neck’ corridor (or Siliguri corridor) connecting India’s northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan besides China. It ended after Chinese troops stopped road construction after which both countries stepped up efforts to normalise relations leading to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April 2018.
Outcomes of 9th Dialogue
Both sides agreed to enhance exchanges and interactions through reciprocal high-level visits between two ministries of defence as well as between military commands, joint training exercises, mutual visits by defence personnel including mid-level and cadet officers were also agreed upon
They also reiterated importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas, implementing (Wuhan) consensus reached between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping and specific additional confidence-building measures at the operational level.
They underlined importance of this dialogue as important mechanism between two countries for consultations on defence and security matters. They emphasised need to further strengthen military-to-military ties in order to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries.
Both sides also had an exchange of views on regional and global issues. Both sides agreed to hold the next round of the dialogue at mutually convenient time in India in 2019.
The present standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam (located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan) has highlighted India’s very special relationship with Bhutan, including military responsibilities.
In June 2017 Chinese Army (People’s Liberation Army) construction party had entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) patrol had attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. Later Bhutan underlinined that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries. Since these developments, India and Bhutan have been in continuous contact, giving a view of India’s role in Bhutan’s security and matters of mutual interest.
India’s defence commitment to Bhutan
Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, both countries have agreed to cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. It provides that, neither Government will allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.
Under the previous treaty, India was to guide Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The 2007 treaty is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. In reality, it gives India virtual responsibility to protect Bhutan from the kind of external threat including threat from Chinese military.
Moreover, the Eastern Army Command and the Eastern Air Command of India have integrated protection of Bhutan into their role. The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), headed by a Major General also plays a critical role in training Bhutanese security personnel.